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Football: Arsenal's Vermaelen agrees Barcelona move

Barcelona finally won the race to sign Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen on Saturday (Aug 9).

LONDON: Barcelona finally won the race to sign Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen on Saturday (Aug 9).

The Spanish club had been battling with Manchester United for the Belgium international's signature over the last few weeks and Luis Enrique's team got their man for a reported fee of £15 million (US$25 million).

United had initially been the front-runners to sign Vermaelen, who was said to be keen to stay in the Premier League and was uncertain if he would start regularly at the Camp Nou. But United manager Louis van Gaal ended his interest when Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, who preferred to sell the former Ajax star to a foreign club rather than a direct rival, asked for England defender Chris Smalling to be included as part of the transfer.

Barca coach Enrique then allayed Vermaelen's fears about spending time on the bench and that was enough to seal the deal for the 28-year-old.

"Thomas Vermaelen has agreed to join Barcelona in a permanent transfer for an undisclosed fee," a statement on Arsenal's website confirmed.

"Vermaelen passed his medical in Barcelona on Saturday. His transfer is subject to the completion of the normal regulatory process.

"Everyone at Arsenal would like to thank Thomas for his contribution during his time at the club and wish him well for the future."

Vermaelen has negotiated a five-year deal and Barcelona said he will sign his contract on Sunday before having a photograph session with the media on the Camp Nou turf. He will then be officially presented as the Catalan club's player at a press conference.

Arsenal captain Vermaelen, who moved to the Emirates Stadium in 2009, made only 21 appearances last season as niggling injuries and the form of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker limited his impact. However, despite being an unused substitute at Wembley, he did lift the FA Cup in May as Arsenal ended their nine-year trophy drought.

Vermaelen, who has 47 caps for Belgium, made 150 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal and scored 15 goals.

He will compete with Gerard Pique and Jeremy Mathieu for a place in the centre of the Barcelona defence.

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